Some three dozen Armenian academics have asked a Yerevan court to overturn their recent dismissal from the French University in Armenia which they consider unfair and illegal, it emerged on Monday.
The university management has fired 29 professors and lecturers, or roughly one-third of its teaching staff, since the beginning of July for reasons that are still not clear. The fired personnel, among them two faculty deans, say written notifications received by them contain no reasons for their dismissal.
“I have received four notifications from the university, two of which were neither sealed, nor signed,” said Marat Atovmian, a law professor. “I was told that my contract expired on July 1, 2010 and that I am dismissed on these grounds.”
“In fact, my contract expired on September 1, 2008, but I continued teaching after that. According to the Labor Code, that means I automatically get a permanent contract,” Atovmian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service.
“I have never had any problems with students, colleagues or my superiors and I have never been reprimanded,” he added.
Gayane Hakobian, who taught English at the university, said she was shocked by her dismissal. “It hurts so much to see years of work come to an abrupt end,” Hakobian told RFE/RL. “They can’t treat as like second-class citizens in our own country,” she said.
The academics said they filed a lawsuit with a Yerevan district court and also appealed to the Ministry of Education, the State Labor Inspectorate, as well as the state human rights ombudsman, Armen Harutiunian, for assistance.
Harutiunian, who himself teaches law at the university, said his office will look into the plea. He reserved judgment on whether or not layoffs were legal.
The university, which was set up by the Armenian and French governments in 2003, declined a comment on Monday on the grounds that its rector, Joelle Le Morzellec, is not in Armenia at the moment. A university official, who did not want to be identified, said only that the mass dismissals did not violate Armenian law.